Ever the butt of good-natured jokes, from Rolling Stone (“All the News that Fits”) to Jon Stewart, it’s not as if the the Times has butted heads with Titans before (the Pentagon Papers) and lost. The Vatican cannot win this particular fight and should have realized the futility of attacking arguably the world’s most influential newspaper. The fact that the Pope’s apologists have chosen to attack the Times' reporters and columnists by name, in a veiled attempt at intimidation, will not work in a secular world of excommunication-resistant laws.
In a resentful riposte to the Times, Cardinal William J. Levada, current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, singled out for discredit the reporting of Times senior columnist Laurie Goodstein and others: “I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s 'disturbing report.'” Without getting into the weeds of the Times’ excellent reporting, the central question boils down to this: When did Pope Benedict, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, know about the sexual abuse by Fr. Lawrence Murphy, the Milwaukee priest who abused some 200 deaf children in an archdiocesan school from 1950 to 1974, and what did he do about it? It’s not that complicated.
The Vatican’s fiercest critic, Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair, fired a shot across the bow when he wrote:
This grisly little man is not above or outside the law. He is the titular head of a small state. We know more and more of the names of the children who were victims and of the pederasts who were his pets. This is a crime under any law (as well as a sin), and crime demands not sickly private ceremonies of “repentance,” or faux compensation by means of church-financed payoffs, but justice and punishment.In response to the growing criticism the Church has now doubled down and gone Medieval. Noted Italian exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, says the press criticism is “prompted by the devil.” Really? And who is the patron saint of pedophiles? Fr. Armoth may be well advised to redirect his unusual skills to exorcising the cancer of pedophile sexual abuse from the Catholic Church, because, as they say, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. This crime is so heinous that the slightest hint of a coverup will be catastrophic for the Church. It is time the Vatican came clean. Enough is enough.